A senior military dog-handler testified Wednesday that he was deeply troubled when he and his dog were thrust into the chaotic environment of an interrogation room at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq .
Navy Chief Petty Officer William Kimbro, testifying in the court martial of an Army dog-handler accused of abusing detainees, recalled being sent into an interrogation room and finding so much chaos that he worried about his dog's welfare. He left quickly after one of the interrogators screamed at him to set his dog on a prisoner, he said.
"It's my morals and it's my professional opinion: It's wrong to use your dog in any way that the dog is not trained to do," Kimbro said.
Kimbro was one of the final prosecution witnesses in the court martial of Army Sgt. Michael J. Smith, who is accused of using his dog to harass, threaten and assault detainees from mid-November 2003 to mid-January 2004.
During that period, guards at Abu Ghraib were on edge after a detainee acquired and fired a gun around Thanksgiving. Interrogators were under pressure to extract information from three prisoners captured along with Saddam Hussein in mid-December, according to testimony.
Smith's military defense lawyers contend that he was following his training and instructions to help soften up subjects for interrogation. But prosecutors have portrayed Smith and another Army dog handler, Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, as rogue soldiers who, together with some of the reservists who guarded the prison, tormented prisoners for their own amusement during night shifts at Abu Ghraib.
Smith, 24, from Fort Lauderdale , Florida , faces up to 24 Ѕ years in prison if convicted on all 13 counts.
Cardona, 31, of Fullerton , California , is set to stand trial May 22.
Kimbro was among five dog-handlers sent to Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003. He was the supervisor of the three Navy teams. The other teams were with the Army.
Shortly after Kimbro testified, the prosecution closed its case after presenting 18 witnesses over three days. Smith's attorneys were expected to begin presenting their case Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday, Pvt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, a convicted reservist who had supervised night shifts at the prison, testified that Smith and Cardona had told him that Col. Thomas M. Pappas, then commander of military intelligence at the prison, had approved the use of muzzled dogs for interrogations. But prosecutors say Pappas was not authorized to give such an order.
Pappas has been reprimanded and fined for his role in the scandal. He has been granted immunity from prosecution and is expected to be among the first witnesses called by the defense team, reports the AP.
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